on 11 June 2009
Translations into English of the full Old Testament (including, of course, its deuterocanonical writings) in Greek, long known as the Septuagint (LXX), have been rather few in number over the years. Thus, it is all the more suprising that two projects to translate the LXX have appeared in publication so rapidly one on the heels of the other. They are the New English Translation of the Septuagint (N.E.T.S.), on the one hand; on the other, there is the O.T. portion of the "Orthodox Study Bible" (O.S.B.), which its publisher, T. Nelson, for its part, issued only one year later (2008) and which encompasses both the Old Testament (O.T.) and the New Testament (N.T.). The O.T. of the O.S.B. denominates that translation's trademarked name as the "St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint" (S.A.A.S.). For most readers, these two new translations probably will have priority of interest over older translations of the LXX that have appeared in the 19th and 20th centuries, including that of Sir Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton (still available in reprint), which still has its advocates to a respectable degree (and rightly so), more of them among Anglican and Protestant scholars, however, than among the Eastern Orthodox.
The O.S.B. incorporates that own freshly completed new translation of its own of the Greek Septuagint O.T. (known, as already mentioned, as the "St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint" English Version, the S.A.A.S., for short), of which the translation project director is the estimable Jack Norman Sparks (who also is the principal editor of the O.S.B. as a whole), which can assure the Eastern Orthodox layman that the O.S.B. would opt for Eastern Orthodox preferences, regarding resort to preferred manuscript sources and concerning certain other matters as well. The full title of the N.E.T.S. version as the title page presents it may hint at some of these possibilities for divergence in exercise of scholarly judgment and preferences; in full, the publication's descriptive title is "A New English Translation of the Septuagint and the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included under That Title" (N.E.T.S); however, the shorter form of the title constitutes the trademark's official wording. The scholarship embodied in the O.S.B. is entirely (or very largely) Eastern Orthodox, including that of many Orthodox converts from evangelical Protestantism; this is an asset, not a weakness, for the O.S.B.'s Orthodox men of learning circumspectly avoid what at times are some reckless turns of phrase that occasionally mar renderings of verses, sometimes disturbingly so, here and there in the N.E.T.S. By contrast with the O.S.B., two resolutely Protestant scholars, Allen Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright (but, compromising reliability, with the cooperation, along the way in their project, of some Jewish pedants among the other scholars who assisted them), edited the N.E.T.S. for Oxford University Press' 2007 publication (which bears the ISBN 978-0-19-528975-6). As the O.S.B. took the O.T. of the New King James Version (N.K.J.V.) as the literary point of departure, in editing and recasting the wording the N.K.J.V.'s O.T. text to comply with the LXX Greek O.T., the N.E.T.S. chose to rework the New Revised Standard Version (N.R.S.V.) of the O.T. to conform it to the Greek LXX O.T.
The results of the editors' work for the N.E.T.S. English translation of the Greek LXX O.T. are remarkably fine. The N.E.T.S. translation is crisply clear (apart from occasional passages that are inhabitually awkward-sounding in an otherwise elegantly worded rendition) and it is freer of the slight ambiguities here and there that one finds in even the S.A.A.S. English rendition of the LXX O.T., except when the N.E.T.S. addles things a bit in its own way! (It is worth using these two English translations in conjunction with each other!) The traces of "feminist-speak" (or "inclusive language") and of other flaws in the N.R.S.V.'s at times too trendy original translation seem, from what this reader can tell in having used the N.E.T.S. fairly intensively along with the O.S.B.'s S.A.A.S., to have disappeared entirely, so meticulously thorough has been the work of Pietersma and Wright in reworking and conforming the N.R.S.V.'s O.T. to the Greek LXX.
From this layman's point of view, the only real obstacle to ease in using the N.E.T.S. edition of the O.T. for daily reading is the N.E.T.S.' pedantic use of exactly transliterated forms of personal and place names, which differ (sometimes markedly) from the better-known forms of name in other English Bibles, which the O.S.B., for its part, wisely chose to retain as being more reader-friendly. Also, of course, having an O.T. in a volume, i.e. here the N.E.T.S., separate from the rest of the Bible (the N.T.) makes using the O.S.B. more convenient for daily use, in order for a reader to access, in a single volume, both the N.T. as well as the O.T.; this makes the O.S.B. (added to the O.S.B.'s avoidance of the sort of highly debatable renderings which occur at times in the N.E.T.S. that negatively and needlessly can affect doctrine) to be the principal choice for a practical edition of the Bible, in full (and, at that, according entirely to Greek texts), for constant use.
All hail to the successful completion of both of these translations and publishing projects, the "Orthodox Study Bible" and the N.E.T.S. English translation of the Greek Septuagint Old Testament! The O.S.B., for its part, makes the complete Greek Bible translated into English available for today's Anglophone readers, especially for the Orthodox faithful among them, as well as for other Christians, and the N.E.T.S., for its share of glory, provides, most of the time and despite some serious flaws, what is perhaps the most delightfully clear yet graciously worded English translation of the LXX Greek O.T. that has appeared to date!